New moon today and Emily warms to her theme.
#387, c. 1862
The Sweetest Heresy received
That Man and Woman know —
Each Other’s Convert —
Though the Faith accommodate but Two —
The Churches are so frequent —
The Ritual — so small —
The Grace so unavoidable —
To fail — is Infidel —
Uncanny Emily is on a roll toward heresy. She’s been hinting at it for days. Here she comes right out and says it. The progression began with liberating the individual self from family, society, church. All these actions are violent. That sort of violence that only Emily can perpetrate. A soft massacre of suns. She shatters the canon of received wisdom. What does it mean to live a good life? Obedience and faith to the god within. The temple of her body. Reading the scripture of her own writing.
Then here she takes one more step in the development of her heresy. She opens the doors of her religion to one other person. Here she allows that true faith may not be a meticulously sealed practice by one. But a belief that enfolds two. That is grace. The miracle of that mutual understanding, and acceptance of something so delicate as a shared belief. When both say, “yes.” Truly, it is a miracle when two say “yes” to the same thing. The ritual that consecrates this faith is a simple embrace, which is the recognition of the other as a like-minded pilgrim.
To fail at this embrace, to turn away, hesitate, or reject, is the real breach of faith. To fall short of this sweet heresy is the greatest sin of all. Or so says Emily.
Then you wonder why the spiritual landscape that Emily normally walks must be hers alone. She had to create it on her own, tailor-made for her spirit because her nature abhors the crowds and the imposition of beliefs that are not her own invention. Her creativity is so powerful, it eclipses any contrived notion of spirit whose source lies outside her direct experience of herself. Emily doesn’t need anyone to tell her the truth. She knows it like her own droughtless wells.
So this move toward a church of two gives me pause. Why is this necessary for her? One possible answer lies here. There is no country more dangerous than another person. No possibility more uncertain. So if the purposive action of faith is to shape our lives in a manner consistent with God’s best hopes for us, then faith doesn’t fulfill its potential until it ignites a meaningful and mutual connection with another person. This is the only way to move the gift of faith beyond the boundaries of the self-created world. The only way to shape the world according to faith is to find it in another.
(I can’t help but hear the strains of that song: “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there is love.” It originated with Matthew of course, but then Peter, Paul and Mary had to make it into a wedding song. Arrrgh! I hate it when I can’t get corny songs out of my way. Why does it have to be? Why “two or more”? Emily would say: No two is enough. More than two, you’ve a church, and then you’re on the road to perdition.)
To continue: The movement of faith beyond the boundary of self is terrifying. Because it might not work. Other people may or may not have the same best hopes. That’s why they call it a leap of faith. It always flies blind. If you know the outcome before the leap, then it doesn’t count as faith. God’s best hope for us is that we’ll keep acting as though He is real, even without a safe guarantee. Safety is just a cover for complacency. The potential for failure keeps us awake and honest.
I can understand why Emily would prefer her own society over any other. It’s so much cleaner and more orderly that way. Yet here she is—brave Emily— calling for that effortless grace that enfolds two who believe the same thing. She believes that is possible. At least in poems.
All this talk of miracles as we move toward the Winter Solstice is interesting. Heading for a long night illuminated by a single light. Looking forward to it.